Pizza baking in Wood-fired oven by Jared Tarbell from Awesometown, United States of America, CC BY 2.0.

Unelected local bureaucrats in progressive cities have a long history of imposing costly regulations on their residents and small businesses, and the latest example comes from New York City. It was recently reported the city’s Department of Environmental Protection has drafted a new rule taking aim at wood and coal-fired ovens, which are commonly used by restaurants to cook up the Big Apple’s iconic pizzas.  

 Specifically, the proposed DEP rule would require pizzerias to assess their oven’s exhaust systems and evaluate whether they could feasibly install pollution control devices that would decrease their emissions by 75 percent. If deemed possible, they would be forced to install and maintain scrubbers at the restaurant’s expense. And if no such device can be installed, restaurant owners would still need to find a way to reduce their oven’s emissions by 25 percent or submit an explanation as to why they cannot do so.  

 Like every other government mandate, NYC’s pizza oven rule comes with a cost. One restaurant owner in Brooklyn has already spent $20,000 on an air filter system to preemptively satisfy its requirements. “It’s not just the expense of having it installed, it’s the maintenance,” says Paul Giannone, owner of Paulie Gee’s. “I got to pay somebody to do it, to go up there every couple of weeks and hose it down and, you know, do the maintenance.” Although the business paid for the installation, Giannone warns that the burden will ultimately be passed onto his customers through higher prices.  

 Another local restaurateur decried the proposed regulation as harmful to New York pizza’s signature taste, claiming “If you [mess] around with the temperature in the oven you change the taste. That pipe, that chimney, it’s that size to create the perfect updraft, keeps the temp perfect, it’s an art as much as a science. You take away the char, the thing that makes the pizza taste great, you kill it.” Swift backlash has already come from customers as well. One protester went so far as to throw slices of pizza at New York City Hall while shouting “Give us pizza or give us death!”  

 In the end, the combined cost of professional inspections, device installation, and regular maintenance may prove to be prohibitive for dozens of restaurants that employ wood and coal-burning ovens. Should the proposed regulation be instituted, pizzerias may need to abandon their generations-old traditions and purchase all new ovens—or simply shut down entirely.  

 Texans don’t have to worry about locally-imposed pizza oven regulations or gas stove bans being proposed in any of their major cities, which are all governed by Democrats. That’s because the recently-enacted Regulatory Consistency Act preempts such local regulatory powers. Any state lawmaker interested in preserving consumer freedom and shielding businesses from costly and misguided local regulations — like an unnecessary pizza oven regulation, gas stove ban, flavored vape prohibition, or plastic bag ban – would be wise to consider Texas-style preemption.